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March 24, 2011

Wezen-Ball

The Bob Uecker Filmography

by Larry Granillo

Watching Futurama, one of my favorite television shows of all-time, the other night for the fiftieth time, I was reminded of something that I had forgotten completely: in the episode "A Leela of Her Own", the obligatory baseball episode, commentary for the "blernsball" match is provided by none other than Bob Uecker. Uecker, of course, is the Hall of Fame broadcaster from Milwaukee famous for his beer commercials, his deprecating sense of humor, and his acting chops. It's not exactly a surprise to see Ueck guesting on a show like Futurama, but it's still fun to run across him.

The most famous roles of Bob Uecker's career are, almost certainly, his six-season turn as George Owens on the television series Mr. Belvedere and as lovable Cleveland Indians' play-by-play announcer Harry Doyle in Major League. As Futurama shows us, though, Uecker has appeared in other movies and television shows throughout the years. And, being Ueck, there was never a wasted scene in any of them.

Here, then, is my attempt at a complete filmography for Bob Uecker. Yes, this information is already available over at IMDB (in fact, that's my primary source for the article), but that's just an impersonal list of the movie/episode title, role, and year. In the filmography below, I've included, where I could, a complete description of Mr. Uecker's role and a sample of his best dialogue. If you love Bob Uecker as much as I do, I think you'll appreciate this.

The Complete Bob Uecker Filmography

Saturday Night Live: Season 10, Episode Two (1984)
The second episode of one of SNL's worst seasons. It aired during the 1984 World Series, which I guess is why Uecker was hosting. From the skits available on the Netflix version of the episode, Bob didn't have much to do. The hosts that year acted as the Weekend Update anchor (called "Saturday Night News"), so Uecker focused mainly on the Series. There was one terrific skit, though, where Ueck, as manager of the Little League team, cuts his son from the team (and the family) for making an error.
Best Uecker line: (from the monologue) "...There's a statue of me outside the St. Louis ballpark. It's a little screwed up. They have me batting lefthanded - I was a righthanded batter - but the uniform and everything else was the same. And right on the bottom, the guy's name in big letters - some guy named "Stan the Man". I guess he made it. Did a beautiful job on it."

O.C. and Stiggs (1985)
A Robert Altman "satirical" teen comedy that IMDB tells us Bob Uecker had the role of "Bob Uecker" in. I haven't had a chance to watch this movie yet, so I don't know how Ueck fit into it.

Tall Tales and Legends: "Casey At the Bat" (1986)
A Shelley Duvall television series that dramatized hour-long versions of famous legends. In "Casey At the Bat", Elliot Gould played the goofy title character (with Carol Kane as his girlfriend) who helped save Mudville and baseball itself from an evil Mudco executive who was trying to buy the stadium - the only baseball stadium in the country! - to use as a wasteyard by unwittingly striking out. The story was narrated by Howard Cosell, who was telling the tale during a rain delay at Busch Stadium with his partner "Joe" (Uecker). It's really a pretty poor production all-around and, sadly, Uecker never really has a chance for any good lines. It did give me a good appreciation for the famous line from Better Off Dead: "Which is better, speaking no English at all, or speaking Howard Cosell? Which is better, speaking no English at all, or speaking Howard Cosell?"

Mr. Belvedere, 115 episodes (1985 - 1990)
Included here for completeness sake. Please don't expect me to rattle off Uecker's single best line of the series' run. That's just not going to happen. I suspect it's a dig at Mr. Belvedere himself, though.

Who's the Boss?: "The Unnatural" (1986)
We all know that Tony Danza's character in Who's the Boss? was a washed-up baseball player. This episode was *the* baseball episode of the series, dealing with Tony's attempt to beat out an old rival from his minor league days in a game of softball. Tony nearly has the chance to do it, but decides it's more important to let Angela succeed than to beat out his old friend. Billy Martin ("What are you, some kind of manager or something?" "Off and on!") and Steve Sax ("Chess is my game!") also guest star. Uecker shows up randomly in the stands during the game, where he, of course, gets no respect.
Best Uecker line: "If they ever turned this park around, I'd be in the front row!"

D.C. Follies: "Ollie North Raises Money with 'Adopt-a-Contra' Scheme" (1987)
A puppet show or something starring Fred Willard. Uecker guests as himself in an episode, but I can't find anything online about it.

Major League (1989)
And this is where most of America seems to know Ueck from (well, this or the Miller Lite commercials). The movie about the futile Cleveland Indians (who hadn't won anything in, gasp, 35 years!) was filmed mostly in the city of Milwaukee, with County Stadium standing in for Municipal Stadium. It made perfect sense, then, to use Milwaukee's own Bob Uecker as the movie's announcer. It helped that Uecker is so hilarious. As good as the on-the-field and in-the-lockerroom stuff was in this movie, I guarantee you it's not nearly as good a movie if anyone else is up in the booth.
Best Uecker line: "Just a bit outside!" or "Ball 4! Ball 8!"

Fatal Instinct (1993)
The Carl Reiner spoof of erotic thrillers like Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction. Near the end of the film, Lana Ravine goes to trial for murder. Up in the booth, calling the play-by-play is, of course, Bob Uecker. It's as silly as you might imagine (though not quite up to Airplane standards).
Best Uecker line: "What a great day for a trial. We have lots of incandescent lighting, a temperature of 72 degrees inside. The wind should not be a factor unless somebody cuts one."

Major League II (1994?)
Hmm... that's weird. I don't remember there being a sequel to Major League.

Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco (1996)
The sequel to the first Homeward Bound. A story about two dogs and a cat who get lost in the city and have to fight their way back, with Michael J. Fox and Sally Field providing the voices of the two canines (a la Look Who's Talking!). Ueck voices a dog named Trixie Uecker. Sadly, I cannot find video of this online and my Netflix disc got lost in the mail.

LateLine: "Pearce's New Buddy" (1998)
The Al Franken comedy series about a fictitious news show called "LateLine". Another series that I can't find online. Considering the title of the episode and the fact that Uecker was playing "Himself", it's quite possible that Ueck had more screen time than usual in this episode. I may have to dig deeper to find this episode.

Major League: Back to the Minors (1998?!?)
Uh, this is even more confusing than Major League II. I think someone is screwing around with IMDB. I mean, it says Scott Bakula was in this movie! Maybe they got it confused with an episode of Quantum Leap or Star Trek: Enterprise or something. That must be it. I bet Uecker was playing a Klingon!

Futurama: "A Leela of Her own" (2002)
And finally back to where we began. In this episode, Leela, the one-eyed alien, gets signed as a pitcher by the New New York Mets blernsball team. The Mets are so bad that they need anything to attract fans, and the team thinks that Leela's amazing ability to bean every batter shes faces will do that. Uecker continues his role as announcer, although this time he does it as a head in a jar.
Best Uecker line: "Welcome to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Poindexters where the Mets close out a season that'll rank among mankind's most awful crimes."

Well there you have it. A complete list of every television show or movie that Bob Uecker has guested in. I know there are a few holes in there as far as a thorough description of each of Ueck's roles, but it's the best I could do right now. D.C. Follies isn't exactly lighting the internet on fire, you know.

Whatever the case, I hope you'll join me in appreciating the joy that is Bob Uecker. We Milwaukee fans are blessed again this year to have Ueck back in the booth after his two heart surgeries last year. For those of you who aren't so lucky, at least you have his terrific filmography to work through. I know you were looking for an excuse to watch that Who's the Boss? episode anyway.

Related Content:  A's,  The Who

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